The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor / Edition 1

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Statues of the god Priapus stood in Roman gardens to warn potential thieves that the god would rape them if they attempted to steal from him. In this book, Richlin argues that the attitude of sexual aggressiveness in defense of a bounded area serves as a model for Roman satire from Lucilius to Juvenal. Using literary, anthropological, psychological, and feminist methodologies, she suggests that aggressive sexual humor reinforces aggressive behavior on both the individual and societal levels, and that Roman satire provides an insight into Roman culture. Including a substantial and provocative new introduction, this revised edition is important not only as an in-depth study of Roman sexual satire, but also as a commentary on the effects of all humor on society and its victims.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Garden of Priapus was the first, and still is the best full-scale study of sexual language and humor in Roman poetry. Fully alert both to the linguistic and literary nuance of the poetry and to the social and psychological attitudes of its audience, Richlin gives us a penetrating and provocative view of an important but neglected aspect of Roman antiquity. This new edition is a most welcome event for anyone interested in Latin literature and the modes of its engagement with the Roman world."—Jeffrey Henderson, Boston University

"A comprehensive, frank, and bold analysis....Abundant insights from today's social sciences, together with references to numerous modern sex 'types' and studies on sexuality and verbal obscenity, support Richlin's observation and...underlie her concern...that in our own society and in antiquity sexual humor may 'serve not only to reinforce, but possibly to exacerbate aggressive tendencies.'"—Choice

"The author's command of the primary texts and relevant scholarly literature is evident throughout....The book is well crafted and reveals aspects of Roman literature that had until recently been considered inappropriate for wide dissemination and discussion. For many it can add a new dimension to their understanding and teaching of Roman literature and civilization."—Gerald Erickson, University of Minnesota

"By insisting on the prescriptive function of obscene and aggressive humor in Latin literature, by observing its close connection to basic social structures and its links with other modes of discourse, both subliterary and elevated, Richlin has achieved a major methodological breakthrough."—Marilyn Skinner, University of Arizona

"Important study...The book remains a major treatment of Roman sexuality and of Roman society more broadly. Richlin presents admirably a vital aspect of an imperial, cosmopolitan, and highly influential culture...Beautifully typeset Greek and latin quotations. Richlin's writing is virtuosic and vigorous: worthy of her often mind-boggling material."—Journal of the History of Sexuality

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195068733
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,045,509
  • Product dimensions: 6.19 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Southern California
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Table of Contents

Toward a History of Sexuality
Feminist Work Within Classics
Philology, the New Historicism, and the Foucauldian Theory of Sexuality in Antiquity
Through the Garden and Back
Ch. 1 Roman Concepts of Obscenity 1
Apologiae 2
Decorum in Prose 13
"Four-Letter Words" 18
Staining 26
Ch. 2 The Erotic Ideal in Latin Literature and Contemporary Greek Epigram 32
Pueri 34
Mistresses 44
Ch. 3 The Content and Workings of Roman Sexual Humor 57
Descriptive Analysis: The Priapic Model 57
The Genres of Roman Sexual Humor 64
The Subjects of Roman Satire 65
Other Models for Satire: Judgmental Analysis 70
Ch. 4 Graffiti, Gossip, Lampoons, and Rhetorical Invective 81
Graffiti 81
Gossip 83
Lampoons 86
Rhetorical Invective 96
Ch. 5 Literature Based on Invective: Invective against Old Women, Priapic Poetry, and Epigram 105
Invective against Old Women 109
Priapic Poetry 116
Epigram 127
Appendix: The Date and Authorship of the Carmina Priapea 141
Ch. 6 Catullus, Ovid, and the Art of Mockery 144
Catullus 144
Ovid 156
Ch. 7 Sexual Satire 164
Lucilius 164
Horace 174
Persius 185
Petronius 190
Juvenal 195
Conclusion 210
Appendix 1. The Evidence on the Circumstances Surrounding Adultery at Rome 215
Appendix 2. The Circumstances of Male Homosexuality in Roman Society of the Late Republic and Early Empire 220
Invective 220
Erotic Poetry 222
Some Real-Life Evidence 223
Ideals 225
Notes 227
Bibliography 261
Addenda and Corrigenda 273
Additional Bibliography 292
Index of Passages Cited 295
Index Verborum 307
General Index 311
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